Other stories.

Cutaway

LE
Kit Reviewer
#1
We've got a few tales here from Rhodies and Zim, SA, SWA, Angola and 'Bique, but as we all know soldiering gets into the blood of some of us and the locs change.

I've one from a friend here, give it a squizz and tell me if there's mileage in posting more of these types of story, and if you have one yourself feel free to slam it in.


He was no angel. By no means. He drank. Not just water.
And smoked. Not just cigarettes. Something which probably contributed to his sudden demise.
Where he died in Africa, ‘on active service’, there is no grave. All that remained at first was one big hole, now long gone.
He and his mate don’t feature in any publication about the Southern Sudan’s long and bloody liberation war.
It is like they didn’t even exist.

And when the country finally got its independence, there was no parade in his honour, no mention of his and his mate’s momentous contribution, not even any kind of recognition.
Though there are all sorts of heroes, titled role-players and political, military and even clerical figures named, listed and lauded when you read in the net about the freedom struggle waged by the black Anyanaya fighters against their Arab oppressors.
President Aggrey Jaden, Commander-in-Chief Joseph Lagu, General Moshe Dayan, President Gordon Muortat Mayen, Dr John Garang, Colonel Rolf Steiner, three ranked Israeli agents, and even a catholic priest, Father Saturnino, who did sterling work mobilising the Christian world, and was murdered for his pains. The one more important than the other.

But nowhere do you find any mention of one Fenton Kirby, combat name ‘Rip’, – in fact, I, who know the story from his mate, don’t even know if I got the name right.
Neither of his mate, a typically competent, but modest British NCO, who had seen action in the Congo and later went on to serve in Rhodesia and South Africa.

This story started in 1970 or thereabouts, after the war in Biafra had come to an end. When the two whiteys walked across the southern border with their savings to sustain themselves independently for some time.
To join the few hundred ‘Anyenya’ fighters and their families, who had fled into the more remote regions of the southern Sudan. Most of them belonging to the tall, proud, cattle-rearing Dinka tribe, they had few weapons and even less food, as they were now dependent on the increasingly scarce resources of the locals around them.
But under the command of their leader Gordon Muortat Mayen, they were determined to make war against Arab Muslim rule from the north, welcoming the arrival of the two able and experienced European soldiers. Who were given ‘African’ names, as is the custom on the continent, Rip’s mate henceforth being ‘Fashoda’. And who set about rectifying the most urgent need first: The lack of food. Food which was walking about in abundance the other side of the Sudanese-Congolese border.
So the experienced white NCO’s went across into the wild reaches of the Congo with a platoon or so of Anyenyas and shot big game ‘for the pot’, as it were.
While the Dinkas, as cattle-men, had no idea about hunting, they were more than able to cut out and carry the meat back across the border, – and eat it, thereby fulfilling Napoleon’s first dictum: An army marches on its stomach…

The two mates then started the training, concentrating on a core group of not more than a company.
Weapons and ammunition would always be in short supply, though, over time, the situation improved somewhat, as some filtered through from the other side of the Nile.
There, three Israelis had set up an advisory and liaison post with another, higher-up Anyenya leader.

Behind the scenes, and far above the two whiteys’ level, there was a lot of political conniving, scheming, in-fighting and power-playing among the different Southern Sudanese tribes and leaders.
But, at the end of the day, the two friends were left alone and supported to carry on with the job of transforming their small Dinka group into what was probably the most effective and successful Anyenya unit.
Whether the overall leadership appreciated this, we don’t know. Not that one can blame them if they didn’t, what with all the other more eloquent, connected, clever and high-ranking advisers, trainers and officers from Israel, Germany, France and wherever, who appeared and disappeared on the scene. Sometimes literally.
I suppose all of them contributed in one way or another, especially the Israelis, who had the full backing of their state’s military and its stores of captured weapons and mines behind them.

But down on the ground, there where you live and sweat and train and march together and weld soldiers into fighting units, Rip and his mate stood unique.
A fact silently acknowledged when, after the first peace agreement, their little unit was fetched to the capital to become the presidential guard….

Back to the beginnings and the daily grindstone.
The two mates quietly continued their training and preparation, gaining the trust and respect of their young Dinka fighters.
Sitting in Rip’s mate’s little home far away in London so many decades after, one can see the old man’s eyes light up with pride when he talks about them.
At some stage, they moved north, into the swamps near Bor, one of the many Arab garrisons along the river on the way down to the southern capital Juba. There, among the river Dinkas, they set up a base from where hit-and-run guerrilla operations could be launched against the numerically and materially far superior enemy forces.

The regime in Khartoum was increasingly relying on the Soviets for military aid to keep the restless south under control.
Plus it had been, and was still, royally supplied with military hardware by their former colonial masters, the British.
So at Bor there were Saracens and Saladin armoured cars, ready to rush out and engage any of the barefoot fighters cheeky enough to oppose them.

The little unit around the two whiteys started with mining the road, laying down old British and Soviet anti-vehicle mines in tandem.
When the Arabs came rushing down the road, they set them off, suffering, for the first time, heavy casualties.
Angered, the garrison commander at Bor decided to hit the Anyenyas there where it hurt most, in their villages.
His informants, – of which there were many, – had told him about a rebel group under the command of a major, who were more or less idling away in their village.
In a sudden early-morning attack, they roared out of the bush, flattened the huts, and rounded up the inhabitants.
The major managed to get away, running for miles in front of his pursuers. When he finally reached safety, he collapsed and died from a heart attack.
Back at the river, the Arabs shot 38 of the village’s men and boys, throwing the bodies into the water. One of them, managing to remain conscious despite of his gunshot wound, swam the river and survived to tell the tale.

It was time to strike back.
Bor being too big a base to take on, it was decided to take out one of its outposts to the north, manned by what was believed to be a platoon.
So, with about 40 men, Rip and his mate set out at night.
First they mined the road north out of Bor, leaving the survivors of the late major’s group behind as an ambush party.
Then they moved in on the outpost. Spreading out along the river, facing the enemy position from the direction he least expected, they launched the assault on the entrenched enemy.
Fashoda out in front, as usual, In the time-honoured tradition of the brave and fearless NCO he was. Unfortunately for him, Bor had sent up reinforcements, including a sniper. A shot hit him in the head, throwing him down.
The momentum of the attack he led, however, carried the rest of his men over the trenches and into the enemy base, where they proceeded to kill and capture those who didn’t manage to flee.
Rip himself shot down the sniper.

Back at Bor, alerted by the shooting, the garrison sent out their armoured cars, which promptly drove into the ambush.
The major’s men ran away, but the mines didn’t.
Once again, heavy casualties among the armoured car crews and hangers-on and a withdrawal back to base. Leaving the Anyenyas the undisputed victors, proud of their first ever successful attack on an Arab base.

But the success had come at a cost. Fashoda was seriously wounded, more than was realised at first, when he slowly got up and started walking back with the rest of his men.
They had suffered minimal casualties, – three dead and a few wounded, – but now they had to stop every now and again, waiting for the white man, who kept slipping in and out of unconsciousness.
Finally, they had to carry him back to base, where they realised his injury might turn out to be life-threatening. A runner was sent off to ‘HQ’ to the south to the other side of the Nile, to fetch a ‘bone-setter’, also referred to in our world as a witch-doctor. Who arrived more than a week later to remove the shattered pieces of bone out of the white man’s head.
Which probably saved his life, though the scars, and some after-effects, would remain with him forever after.

On the island in the middle of the Nile marsh, Fashoda slowly recovered, but was more or less restricted to light duties.
To keep the pressure up on the enemy, Rip went out with a detachment to put in another mine ambush.
On his own, without his senior’s restraints, he decided to improve on their mining by putting in his own anti-lift device.
No one knows what exactly went on in his head, when on that fateful night he put his men in all-round defense and started the dangerous work of laying and booby-trapping the mines.
All we know is what the young Anyenya soldier closest to him, who was blinded by the blast, told afterwards.
That he shouted a warning when he heard the hissing of the anti-personnel mine Rip had pulled the pin out of, and that soon afterwards all the linked-up mines blew.
It is said the garrison in close-by Bor literally shat itself and stood by their guns the rest of the night and well into the next day….

When news of the disaster reached the Anyenya base, morale plummeted.
Though shattered himself, Fashoda, being the hardened and effective leader of men he was, straight away implemented a program of weapons drill and exercises to take his men’s mind off and slowly but surely build their fighting spirit up again.
As soon as possible, he walked down to the site of the explosion, where there was, literally, nothing left of his mate.
Only a moer of a hole in the ground, – and his singed hat. And a little piece of bone, possibly from his hip.

Like so many of his peers who believed more in deeds than in talk , Rip’s mate and friend was not a very overtly religious and well-speaking man. So he did not stop there and hold a service or even just say a few words.
But when he had reached this part of his story, there in his little kitchen in a little suburb of London, I could see he had difficulty carrying on talking.
He lapsed into silence, his eyes seemed to be filling up with something , and he turned his head to look out the window to try and hide his embarrassment.
I could see that even now, more than forty years later, the loss of his comrade, who had shared so much of their incredible work, hardship and adventure in the middle of the beloved, far-away continent, was hurting badly. And took the soul out of his will to continue.
His injury played a role, certainly, but it was the loss of Rip which made him leave a few months after. Walking all the way to the border, escorted by his loyal men.
And then into Ethiopia, from where he returned to England. Leaving behind ‘his’ fighters, who continued the guerrilla war he was so instrumental in placing on the road to success.
Fighters who maintained, I am sure, a fond and unforgettable memory of the upright, extremely competent and thoroughly honest white NCO’s who came and lived and fought with them for a good cause.
A cause which, so refreshing in the history of modern Africa, where the baddies always win, eventually succeeded and created a new and independent state free from Arab rule.
A state which has conveniently forgotten two whiteys called Fashoda and Rip. Whiteys who brought their own skills, and money, and never received a cent from the people they served.

The hole Rip’s sudden departure left in the African soil will have been closed long ago, the memory even among his men and friends is fading until one day it will be gone completely, – but, hopefully, the wonderful example they set, and the tradition of black and white standing and fighting together, will one day again lead to a better Africa than the one so many Africans are now fleeing.
 
#2
Memories. Spent a lot of time in that area and Bor was one of the places we had to avoid as they were a bit trigger happy if you got within range.

This is what's left of the Jonglei canal, not too far from Bor...



DSC00197.JPG
 
#3
Good rapportage, Cuts, but I don't think many on here have the attention span.

Not that that will deter(r) you :-D
 
#5
Heh, sweet thought, and I'm the best ghostwriter ever (others can do that weird PR agenty thing), but I suspect Nkosi Maximus would be a tokoloshe nightmare to work with...
 
#6
Interesting, and thank you very much.
RIP 'Rip'.
He gets mentions in Forsyth's Dogs of War.

(Shannon} knew there were three separate groups of mercenaries operating in South Sudan, helping the Christian blacks in their civil war against the Arab North. In Bahr-el-Gazar two other British mercenaries, Ron Gregory and Rip Kirby, were leading a small operation of Dinka tribesmen, laying mines along the roads used by the Sudanese army in an attempt to knock out their British Saladin armored cars.


and

A year later Semmler sold out his share to Waldenberg, who raised a mortgage to pay for it. Then Semmler went off to another war. He died in South Sudan, when he, Ron Gregory, and Rip Kirby were laying a mine to knock out a Sudanese Saladin armored car. The mine went off, killing Kirby instantly and badly injuring Semmler and Gregory. Gregory got home via the British Embassy in Ethiopia, but Semmler died in the bush.
 

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